After the Ministry of Agriculture came up with the vision of “Doubling Farmer’s Income”, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India, is now looking to foster “Doubling Agricultural Exports” in the larger interest of farmers. No doubt, it’s a robust plan to reshape Indian agriculture as expected from a dynamic government while stepping towards “New India”.
The task of doubling the agricultural exports and integrating Indian farmers with their products into the global value chain is no doubt stupendous, but at the same time highly challenging. In order for the seeds of new ‘Agricultural Export Policy’ as envisaged to germinate and finally bear fruit, the ground has to be prepared to a fine tilth and watered well. This should start with the identification of burning problems damaging Indian agricultural exports, keeping in view of the declining export trend in important commodities and rising import alerts and recalls.
My LinkedIn article “How Safe is Red Chilli Powder – the Taste in Indian Curry!”about a year ago, again confirmed by Times of India article stating “Now, cancer causing aflatoxins found in Guntur Chilli samples” which is set to destabilise export as we are the major producer, exporter and consumer of Chilli and Andhra Pradesh happens to be the largest Chilli producing state, close to 7.0 lakh tons annually.
India uses multitudinous pesticides which are not even permitted or simply banned in developed countries. Application of pesticides in Chilli is one of the maximum and so also in Basmati Rice where exports have started dwindling. Recently, European Union drastically reduced the Maximum residue limits (MRL) of Tricyclazole from 1 ppm to 0.01ppm in Basmati rice, putting Indian exporters to a great disadvantage. Excessive pesticide and chemical residues are a major concern for Indian agricultural exports besides aflatoxin, right from Basmati to grapes to peanut – the list is long.
India ambitiously signed agricultural export deals with number of countries in North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific and South-east Asia and is moving aggressively to expand more markets in other destinations. Such a move requires serious introspection about the preparedness and capabilities of various stakeholders in agri-export and limitations in value chain management. The announcement of increasing the value of agricultural export to US$ 100 billion by 2022 appears unrealistic with the falling export from US$ 43.0 billion in 2013-14 to US$ 33.0 billion during 2016-17.
Dr. M S Basu Managing Director, SBSF Consultancy; Formerly, Director ICAR (DARE); Visiting Scientist ICRISAT (CGIAR); UNIDO International Consultant on Aflatoxin (Africa) firstname.lastname@example.org